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What is a Harmonized System (HS) classification number?

The Harmonized System Classification is a 6-digit standardized numerical method of classifying traded products. HS numbers are used by customs authorities around the world to identify products for the application of duties and taxes. Additional digits are added to the HS number by some governments to further distinguish products in certain categories.

HS data is assembled from declarations of imports and exports. Then it is used to:

  • Determine appropriate duty rates;
  • Negotiate trade agreements;
  • Maintain trade statistics;
  • Identify goods and shipments that pose a risk to the health, safety and security of US.

Within each Chapter, goods are listed according to a hierarchical classification system, broken down into finer and finer categories. The lowest breakdown level is called the Classification Number. This is the number that must be used on the Customs documents. There is a Classification Number for every product that anyone could ever wish to import.

The Classification Number is put together in a very logical manner. Consisting of 10 digits, each digit provides specific data used to systematically produce an increasingly accurate description of the item. Because the Harmonized System was designed to be used on a global basis, the first 6 digits fulfill the international requirements while the last 4 have been designated for Country-specific Tariff and statistical purposes.

Example: 0406.20.90.20 Cheese, as an animal product, is found in Section I: Live Animals; Animal Products. Classification down to the 10 digit level can be reached as follows:

04 is the Chapter designation indicating that the item belongs to Chapter 4: dairy produce; birds' eggs; natural honey; edible products of animal origin not elsewhere specified or included.

04.06 is the Heading within Chapter 4, creating a more specific description of the type of dairy product: Cheese and Curd.

0406.20 is the Subheading indicating the type of cheese or curd: grated or powdered cheese of all kinds. Note that the decimal in between the first two digits and last two digits of the Heading level moves to after the first four digits in the Subheading level and below.

0406.20.90 is the Tariff Item, describing the variety of grated or powdered cheese: other than cheddar and cheddar types. The Canadian duty rate is assessed at this level. The official unit of measurement is assigned, where applicable, at this level when the Statistical Suffix is 00.

0406.20.90.20 is the Classification Number, specifying the exact type of grated or powdered cheese other than cheddar: Romano. The classification number is built by adding a two digit code, the Statistical Suffix (in this case 20) to the Tariff Item. Note that all Classification Numbers belonging to a given Tariff Item will have the same duty rate. As well, the official unit of measurement is assigned, where applicable, at this level when the Statistical Suffix is other than 00.